Manners still matter to your momma

COVER DEC 09 issue. Just because you haven't had a home cooked meal in months, and have been partying hard with your friends all weekend at the bar, doesn't mean you can act like an animal at Christmas dinner. Illustration by: JAMES MACKENZIE

With the holiday season upon us, there are formal family dinners and meals in swanky restaurants to attend, and good mealtime manners are a must. Nobody wants to be a bumbling bumpkin, stumped by the question of which fork to use first.
SAIT student Shauna Porter says she just goes for “which-ever fork is closest to the food.”
Hospitality instructor Darwin Ens has trained WorldSkills competitors in fine dining service. So when it comes to etiquette, he’s the expert.
He says figuring out the multitude of forks in a setting is as easy as pie.
“Basic rule is always outside in, and that’s global. Anywhere you dine that will work,” says Ens. The silverware placed closest to the plate is meant for the entrée or main course.
In North America, a fine dinner will begin with glassware closest to their hand. Europeans may change it up a little, but Ens says drinks are almost always consumed in the order of water, white wine, then red wine last.
Ens says the seemingly extra plate and utensils above the main setting are for dessert. And the side plate, usually meant for bread, always goes on the left.
Once utensils have been sorted out, there’s still the meat of the issue to contend with. Ens says there is a proper way to make a complaint in a restaurant.
If a dish displeases a customer, mention it politely (no cursing or crying allowed). Most restaurants will have no problem taking care of it.
A not-so-fine dinner may think they know their palette well enough to predict the need for salt and pepper. But Ens says haute cuisine should be expertly seasoned before it reaches the table.
“(Some diners) automatically grab the salt and pepper, and start to layer it onto their meal, and you really shouldn’t,” says Ens. “It says that the chef doesn’t know how to season the meal.” He suggests tasting the meal first. If there is an actual lack of flavour, then proceed to the pepper mill.
Ens’ most loathed etiquette faux pas is a cell phone at the table.
“It just drives me crazy,” says Ens. He recommends setting the phone to vibrate and leaving the table in the event of a crucial call.
Ens says he hopes society doesn’t lose touch with dinner etiquette, which starts with the gentlemanly gesture of pulling a lady’s chair out.
Small finely-tuned gestures like this are glue that keeps our society running smoothly, but if the forks are still confusing and the wine flows too freely, at least keep your elbows off the table. And never play with your food.
POTLUCK Etiquette
Scenario: You’ve been invited to a Christmas potluck and you don’t know what to bring.
Solution: SAIT culinary instructor Kevin Conniff’s apple crisp recipe, a variation on the one he grew up on. This back-to-basics tummy-warmer has been included in the 25th anniversary edition of the Heart of the House cookbook, which is for sale at SAITSA retail outlets to raise money for the local Ronald McDonald house.
Conniff says the recipe is a family favourite. In fact, when his wife’s father celebrated his 60th birthday, what did he request from his award-winning son-in-law chef? You guessed it: sweet-tasting apple crisp.
Apple Crisp
12 Granny Smith apples
4 ounces white granulated sugar
4 ounces brown sugar
2 ounces corn starch
8 ounces golden raisins
4 tbsp cinnamon
4 tbsp lemon juice
Oat Streusel Topping
8 ounces butter
4 ounces white sugar
4 ounces brown sugar
13 ounces all-purpose flour
4 ounces instant oats
1. Peel, core and roughlychop apples into 2-inch pieces. Place in a bowl.
2. Add lemon juice and toss.
3. Separately combine the sugars, corn starch and cinnamon and mix with a fork.
4. Add the raisins and sugar mixture to the apples and toss until everything is mixed together.
5. Place the apple mixture in a 9”x13” pan (glass) and top with oat streusel mixture.
6. Bake at 325F for 30 minutes or until lightly brown on top and the filling is bubbling.
1. Cream butter and sugars until creamed but not fluffy.
2. Add flour and oats and mix until medium crumbs form, do not mix into dough.
3. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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